What does it take ‘to migrate’? Uyghur perspectives from Kyrgyzstan

Hojer, L., & Bishkek, K. (2009). What does it take ‘to migrate’? Uyghur perspectives from Kyrgyzstan. nd): n. pag. Web. Link


When thinking about the Uyghurs in Kyrgyzstan in terms of migration, one is forced to ask the question of what it takes to migrate. Often this question is undertheorised or not even posed in studies of migration – or it is assumed that in a world of easy separations between sovereign nation states, country and city etc., migration is what takes places when a person moves from one territory to the other. People move between Bishkek and the countryside, between Kyrgyzstan and the rest of the world, and the territories on which the movement takes place are given. ‘Migration is the movement of people through geographic space’ (Kearney 1986), and geographic space, then, is the territory that people move on.

Numbers can be produced and statisticians are content; last year 10.000 people moved from x to y. A map of fixed territories, then, becomes the immovable base for the measure of movements. In this article, however, I will take a different view and ask what migration might look like if such territories are fundamentally shattered, i.e. if (perceived) migration rather happens within an imagined terrain of different possibilities than on a world of existing territories (cf. Gupta & Ferguson 1992). The Uyghurs of Kyrgyzstan will be my case. I aim to show that a number of different Uyghur political geographies co-exist and that migration – real and imagined – is not just migration, but is bound up with different conceptualisations of movements and territories. This, in turn, implies that migration is just as much an effect of on-going ‘geographical’ imagination, as it is based on quantifiable movements.


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